The Hatred of Speech and the Poetics of Silence

Thomas Gould

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In this chapter, I look at the case study of the contemporary poet Robert Grenier, in addition to a constellation of influences, especially Charles Olson and Larry Eigner, to examine how John Cage’s conception of silence was modified by US poets associated with the Language writing movement. I will return, in particular, to Grenier’s 1971 essay “On Speech”, widely regarded as one of the most important theoretical statements of its milieu. In that essay, Grenier expresses a hatred of speech—where speech is understood both as an arrogation of the metaphysics of the subject, and as the grounding of meaning in intersubjective communication. This hatred of speech, I argue, inevitably leads Grenier to a graphic practice that intends to disrupt the readability of the poem, preventing it from being read-out-loud. I explore how this mode of silent reception—which is based on a slow, contemplative reading—disrupts the boundary between literature and art, reading and seeing, and recasts poetry as an art of silence as a notation of experience, rather than an art of sound as a notation of speech.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSilence and its Derivatives
Subtitle of host publicationConversations Across Disciplines
EditorsMahshid Mayar , Marion Schulte
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783031065231
ISBN (Print)9783031065224
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2022

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